Emanuel finally breaks silence about Madigan, Quinn sexual harassment scandal

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who joined actor David Schwimmer to announce a new public-service ad campaign against sexual harassment, couldn’t duck questions Monday that he’d been avoiding about a harassment scandal that has ensnared a powerful political ally, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

For months, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has avoided taking sides about the sexual harassment scandal swirling around the once-formidable political organization of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

Emanuel has forged a close working relationship with the speaker that has produced legislative dividends for both the city and the Chicago Public Schools. The last thing he wanted to do was to alienate the state’s most powerful Democrat and jeopardize that alliance.

But it’s tough to avoid the Madigan scandal and the pivotal role in it played by Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) when you’re launching a campaign aimed at raising public awareness of sexual harassment.

That’s what happened Monday at City Hall. Emanuel was asked the question about Quinn he had managed to duck so many times before. This time, he had no choice but to answer.

“They’ve got to get to the bottom of it and then, the chips will fall where they may and people will make a decision,” the mayor said.

“There’s no quarter that allows anybody not to speak up and be heard.”

Emanuel’s response was much the same when asked about demands that Madigan, re-elected Monday as Illinois Democratic Party chairman, step aside from that role.

“Here’s my view: You have an independent commission. They’re gonna get to the root of it. And they’re gonna find out what happened. And the chips will fall where they may and where they have to be,” the mayor said.

“You’re gonna have to get to the bottom when questions get raised. They cannot get pushed to the side. They’re gonna have to be raised and, when they get raised and they … discover what it is, then you’re gonna have to deal with it forthright because you’ve got to set a standard.”

Madigan has fired one veteran political worker, the brother of Ald. Marty Quinn (13th), and banned a second lieutenant, Shaw Decremer, from his political organization because of allegations of bullying and harassment.

That didn’t stop political consultant Alaina Hampton from filing a federal lawsuit accusing Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) and Madigan of not doing enough to stop Quinn’s brother from harassing her.

Hampton claims she told Ald. Quinn, her political mentor, a year ago that the alderman’s brother, political aide Kevin Quinn, had stalked her with a series of harassing text messages.

But Hampton has accused Ald. Quinn of choosing to “protect Kevin instead of me,” giving her no choice but to leave Madigan’s political organization.

Ald. Quinn has maintained that, as soon as Hampton told him about the text messages, he immediately directed his brother to “stop all communication” with her and warned Kevin Quinn that, if he didn’t, he would be fired immediately.

The alderman said he took no further action — nor did he tell Madigan — because “I was attempting to protect Ms. Hampton’s privacy and honor her wishes” that the allegations be kept quiet and that Kevin Quinn “not be further reprimanded.”

In a letter to his Democratic Caucus, Madigan has acknowledged: “We haven’t done enough. I take responsibility for that. I would never condone, sweep under the rug or refuse to take any step to ensure we did not eradicate any behavior of this kind.”

State Comptroller Susana Mendoza, a longtime Madigan ally, was appointed by the speaker to lead a commission charged with “facilitating a statewide discussion about the role of women” in the Illinois Democratic Party.

Last month, Hampton sent letters to Inspector General Joe Ferguson and Steve Berlin, executive director of the Chicago Board of Ethics, demanding investigations of the pivotal role played by Quinn. In the letters, Hampton alleged that Quinn “both engaged in and failed to report corrupt illegal activity in his office” and in Madigan’s once-vaunted and impenetrable 13th Ward Regular Democratic Organization.

Hampton went on to say that the “widespread acceptance and protection of harassment and discrimination in government offices cannot change unless those responsible are held accountable for their actions and the devastating consequences for victims.”

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